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Five Motivations for Conspiracies


Techniques General Persuasion > Conspiracy Theories > Machiavellian achievement of goals | Political control of population | Capitalistic pursuit of profit | Greed and personal gain | Blind following of ideologies | See also


There are many conspiracy theories, but relatively few reasons for the conspiracy. As with all conspiracies, there is immoral purpose, which gives reason for secrecy.

Machiavellian achievement of goals

The conspiracy is between people who share the desire to reach a goal and where the means are justified by the ends.

While people naturally seek to achieve their personal goals, they are constrained by laws, values and other rules. However, when the goals are in sight, it can be tempting to cross the line into immorality or illegality Doing so puts them at risk of social disapproval or legal action, so they conspire with others to hide this fact.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote 'The Prince' as amoral yet practical advice to rulers. The harsh principles have led to the term 'Machiavellian' to indicate the pursuit of goals without seeking to avoid harm to others (which is a basic tenet of many social values).

All conspiracies can be seen through this lens as all people and organizations have goals and that they will work with others when it seems to be advantageous to do so.

Political control of population

There are a number of conspiracies which are believed to be based on the fear and belief that governments seek to achieve control over their populations through undesirable means.

Control has always been a problem for rulers, both despotic and benign. If you allow everyone to do as they wish, you end up with anarchy, so you need ways to keep people in order and accepting your rule.

While dictators can act harshly and directly, democratic governments need to be more careful. The legitimate method is by passing and policing public laws. Yet these do not always work and not controls would be acceptable to a voting public. So governments need more subtle means of control.

The simplest means is by political communication, speeches by politicians that stir hearts and enthuse action (or even inaction, as appropriate). Control also comes from the gathering and management of information, and the principle of governments spying on their own people has been proven so often that questions remain as to exactly how much data they are capturing and what they are doing with it.

Capitalistic pursuit of profit

The basis of capitalism is profit, that people sell things for more than they cost to buy or make. They do this individually or in companies, and compete in a free market.

Many companies have profit as such a strong motivator that morality becomes a 'nice to have' or even a simple inconvenience. As such, companies may flout laws, silence whistleblowers and so on. Some companies are so large now they have a significant effect on national economic success and so can have a significant power over politicians. Other multinational companies are not really based in any individual country and so may take an even wider political interest.

Competition is at the heart of capitalism. When companies compete, costs are driven down and innovation rises, to the benefit of customers and countries. However, companies may collaborate with competitors in oligopolies to fix prices, control markets, block new competitors, influence governments or otherwise seek to hold onto power and profit in anti-competitive ways.

Greed and personal gain

Sometimes conspiracies are simply about personal greed and power.

There are groups of super-rich people who are known to meet together in secret. It is not a big leap to assume that some of the conversations there have more to do with sustaining and increasing their personal wealth more than saving mankind.

Even locally and in politics, individuals will conspire in order to get what they seek.

Blind following of ideologies

Conspiracies may also relate to religions and other ideologies, from political parties to scientific communities. A typical example of an ideological conspiracy is that a given religion has a secret and powerful organization within it which acts to support the religion, including crossing the secular line to influence governments.

Other conspiracies are about attacking and destroying entire ideologies (often by competing ideologies), bringing down organizations that the conspiracists dislike. Suspicions of such conspiracy may be spread by one ideology and used as an excuse to attack others.

See also

Goals, Beliefs


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